Fort Clarkston is a dream for kids and parents alike

Holly Waxler, along with her husband Dana, knows at too well the unique pain parents must go through in order to keep their children entertained. A young mother herself, she remembers trying to find a place to host her son's birthday parties each year that would be enjoyable for both the kids and the adults. Such a place wasn't easy to find – Chuck E. Cheese's didn't quite fit the bill – so they decided to open their own.
 
Fort Clarkston is a venture between the Waxler's and Holly's parents, Pam and Al Rush, who have operated daycare programs for years. It is geared as much towards the parents as it is to the kids: for the kids, there is an extremely large three-story play structure for ages 3+ as well as a full arcade that kids can access with reloadable game cards. There is also a fenced-off two-story play structure exclusively for toddlers (kids that stand three feet and under).
 
And for the parents: a spacious 30-foot bar serving craft beer and wine, with three flats screen TVs in the bar area and four more in the seating areas; leather couches; muted tones (no brightly-colored butterfly-and-rainbow "kids" motifs); a café serving healthier bistro-style items made from scratch in-house; and free Wi-Fi with plenty of available power outlets.
 
"It's more down-to-earth," says Waxler. "It's more sports-oriented. It's definitely something homier and more welcoming to parents, where they're not going to come and feel like they're in a kids' facility. They definitely come and utilize it. People always tell me once they see they bar, 'I like this place a lot more now.' The appeal is there."
 
Waxler, as well as her husband and parents, wanted Fort Clarkston to be a place more geared towards being family-friendly – not just kid-friendly. They designed it to be a place where parents feel comfortable and also want to come and hang out; in other words, definitely not Chuck E. Cheese's.
 
They have a full cable sports package so anything that anyone wants to see on the TVs they will put on (as long as it is kid-friendly; sorry, but no UFC fights). Local sports are always on, and for groups that prefer something like HGTV, they have that too. One thing they will not play on the TVs is cartoons: "No one wants to leave the house and have the kids watch cartoons," Waxler says.  
 
On weekends, Fort Clarkston has staff that will play with the kids in the play structures, which is especially welcome for parents who might be busy – in which case they can take advantage of the ample seating and the free Wi-Fi – or parents and grandparents who might not be able to climb into the play structures and play with the kids themselves.
 
"We see so many people that come in and use free Wi-Fi," says Waxler. "They come in and actually work. They still keep an eye on kids but they can also work and be on the phone if they need to."
 
Fort Clarkston has a strict policy for monitoring who the children come in and leave with, so parents can rest assured that, even if they aren’t watching their children like hawks, the kids will not be able to go home with anyone who isn't them.
 
The 11,000-square-foot facility opened last November and has four party rooms, all of which are available for private rentals. It is otherwise open seven days a week for the general public to drop in for just $10 per child Monday through Thursday and $12 per child on weekends. Infants and non-walkers are always free, and unlimited monthly memberships are also available. The facility is also open for school groups, and they run group-oriented programs like summer camps, providing a fun alternative for the children of working parents during the summer months.
 
Every day there are different themes like "Dinosaur Day" with activities like crafts geared towards that theme, and then there are several special events each month that include things like the upcoming "NFL Kick Off," "Apples, Eats & Treats," "Mom 2 Mom Sale," and the "Mysteriously Spooky" month of October. Each event has special food items and activities to keep them fun and exciting for parents and children alike.
 
"We definitely have a wide array of things we like to cover," says Waxler. "We to do something every season that's a larger event, but really we do anything that's kind of family-oriented."
 
Their clientele is respectful and no one gets "crazy," even with the bar, she says. This is really just a place that parents can come to with their kids and relax – maybe have a glass of wine, a healthy bite to eat, get caught up on emails, watch the game – while their kids run wild in a safe, fun environment. Pretty much, it's every parent's dream.